How can the United States' moral standing have plummeted as a direct result of a foreign policy designed to create more U.S.-friendly democracies in the world? Glenn Greenwald, former constitutional lawyer and author of A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, said at the Cato Institute earlier today that the belief that We are Good and They are Evil is the fundamental philosophy of the Bush administration as well as the cause of that seeming paradox.
Greenwald, speaking before a packed basement auditorium, discussed what he saw as the dangers of this philosophy: (1) Once you believe in it, there is no limit on the means or the weapons you can amass, because there is no more important cause than "fighting evil"; and (2) the philosophy promotes absolute faith in leaders, because those on the side of good would never do something "evil" such as abusing power. Oversight and skepticism become part of the evil because they question the good.
In one of the more interesting moments of the talk, Greenwald praised one of his ideological opposites, law professor and occasional Legal Times contributor John Yoo for what he saw as an "intellectually honest" position in favor of the unlimited power of the executive. Greenwald cited a conversation in which Yoo had been asked if it would be legal for the president, if he believed it to be in the national security interest, to authorize torture by crushing the testicles of young boys. Yoo had answered that it would be.
Naturally, when Baker & Hostetler partner Lee Casey took the podium to offer an opposing viewpoint, he felt it necessary to first give a disclaimer: "I have no desire to crush the testicles of children," he said.